LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Theme and Moral in A.A. Milne’s The World of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner

on April 17, 2013 9:10pm

 A.A. Milne’s poems and stories were greatly influenced by his wife Daphne and his son Christopher Robin.  The most obvious influence, however, came from Christopher Robin’s stuffed animal toys that he had as a child.  The toys took the form of animal characters in Milne’s Pooh stories: Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Piglet, and, of course Winnie-the-Pooh, also known as Edward Bear.  The picture below shows Christopher Robin’s actual toys that influenced his father.  These toys are held in a display at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York.

 

poohtoys

Each one of the animals in the Pooh stories is different in their own way, not only because they are different animals biologically, but they also have different personalities.  The differences among the animals are highlighted throughout the novel by repetition.  When Eeyore lost his tail, Pooh offers to help him find it.  To this nice gesture, Eeyore expresses his gratitude and explains that he is a good friend while others are not (Milne 49).  Pooh sees Kanga and wishes that he can jump like her.  To this, he says, “Some can and some can’t.  That’s how it is” (Milne 106).  When Pooh takes Tigger to Piglet’s house, Pooh briefly warns him to not be bouncy because Piglet is a small animal who does not like bouncing (Milne 200).  Then, Pooh and Piglet take Tigger to see Eeyore and Piglet warns him to not take much to mind of Eeyore because he is always “gloomy” (Milne 205).  Each of the animal characters is different and they are aware of it.  The idea that “some can” and “some can’t” is repeated throughout the novel, thus portraying the differences among each character.

Milne chose to repeat this motif because I believe that he wants to inform children that everyone is different.  Everyone should be accepted for who they are, even if they think he or she is different, or in Pooh’s case, a “Strange Animal.”  However, I believe that Milne chose to repeat this moral to prepare the young readers for the most important moral at the end of the novel.  He uses the repetition of the motif to present the moral that every child will grow up.  Christopher Robin, the only non-animal character in the novel, leaves the fantasy-imaginary-like Hundred Acre Wood for school, which represents the “reality.”  Christopher robin, a human child, leaves behind the animals, which are symbolic of his toys, representing his leave of childhood.  He represents the child who grows up and moves on, unlike his animal friends who can not change or grow up; they are static characters, as the toys are inanimate objects.  The difference between characters is highlighted as Christopher Robin’s leaves, portraying the moral of growing up.

These motifs enhance the overall understanding of Milne’s message.  Young readers are taught that everyone has to grow up out of their childlike ways where imagination, egotism, narcissism, friendship, and adventure exist.  Along with this rather sad moral, he also presents a little positivity.  Milne gives the children hope that Christopher Robin and Pooh will be reunited and that their friendship will remain in tact.  They promise each other that they will not forget one another and that they will visit each other (Milne 361).  For the adult audience, Milne reminds us that there is still a child within us.  He reminds us this with the last quote of the novel: “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing” (Milne 362).  Milne reminds the adult audiences that no matter what happens or how old we get, we are still young at heart.

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3 responses to “Theme and Moral in A.A. Milne’s The World of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner

  1. Abigail Davis says:

    I really enjoyed your post, before you pointed it out I hadn’t realized that Winnie the Pooh’s repeated mantra of “Some can and some can’t” philosophy was more than the silly mumblings of a bear of little brain. It is interesting how the Winnie the Pooh books make such an effort to show that all of the animals, and Christopher Robin are individual characters with their own traits and talents. It’s a good lesson for children to learn, especially since many other children’s books and TV shows seem to reinforce the idea that in general people are the same. By this I mean shows like “The Fairly Odd Parents” which has one or two distinct characters like Timmy Turner and then the rest are bunched into groups like adults, popular kids, fairies, and Timmy’s friends. These groups tend to have the same basic characterization with some minor changes. By going past this grouping of characters Milne expresses the fact that there is some sort of individuality in everyone and that no one is the same.
    I agree with your understanding of how this relates to Milne’s message that children have to grow up out of their childish ways. It does make me sad that this lesson is being taught in a book that I would typically associate with very small children. I would probably read this book to any child from two on; I think the book is of such a quality and focus that any child within that age will enjoy it. I do think that the growing up lesson would be expressed too soon for that age set though; the little kids who enjoy Winnie the Pooh and his friends should not be told to grow up, they are still so young that they have years of childhood before them. I think Milne’s lesson is a little misplaced in this story because of this.

  2. xander says:

    that is no help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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